National Dialogue for Whose Benefit?
ODM party leader Raila Odinga is undoubtedly a fervent politician who understands the political application of the scarcity principle. He is back from his sojourn in the United States. He went there for reasons best articulated in the various speeches he has delivered since his return. He is hoping that the US trip that made him scarce on the Kenyan political marketplace, has injected some fresh impetus in his otherwise withering political influence and nose-diving political career.
As he travelled back, Kenyans chose to engage him with a largely humorous tweeter hash tag, which accidentally hyped up his homecoming. CORD politicians burned the midnight oil to buttress his “homecoming value” by ferrying supporters from their strongholds to Nairobi to make big his rally.
In their address, Raila and Co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka folded their shirts ready for a political tussle. They announced their demand for a national dialogue, which out of their ambiguity, was understood by all and sundry that they were proposing a government of national unity. Raila released two statements the following day clarifying their vagueness.
The 60 day ultimatum and a call for action on the famous Saba Saba day if the president would not have convened preparatory talks between the Jubilee Coalition and the CORD coalition to agree on the agenda and timetable for the national dialogue was a shrewd gambit to sustain the Raila comeback momentum. By accepting to dialogue on day one, President Uhuru instantly deflated that momentum. More interesting was seeing both Kalonzo Musyoka and Senator Moses Wetangula, refer to Saba Saba approvingly. At the time Saba Saba was Kenyans most popular platform to push for democratic and governance reforms, Raila’s co-principals were former President Moi’s fiercest defenders even justifying politically motivated detentions. Times real change!
The vagueness in the demand for national dialogue reflects both the political intentions of those calling for it and the motivation for doing so. CORD since losing the March 4th 2013 presidential race has fought hard often applying unorthodox means to stay afloat. Raila referred to the judiciary “Mahakama Bandia” in attempt to keep alive his claims of stolen victory following the Supreme Court dismissal of his presidential poll petition. He was aptly reprimanded by Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga.
He took to a political podium in Kisumu and made reckless claims that the security agencies influenced the election outcome in favor of President Kenyatta. He followed up with demands for State invitation to official functions for commissioning or launching of major infrastructural development projects under the Vision 2030 as a way of appreciating his supposed contribution while Roads and Public Works Minister and later as Prime Minister.
He continues to castigate the lndependent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) demanding its commissioners be removed from office on grounds he is yet to officially table. By the time he was leaving for the US, he had miserably flopped in his attempts to re-energize his ODM party through party elections.
All these demands including the call for national dialogue are shrewd schemes to ensure Raila’s relevance and sustained momentum on the political scene. It is not the first time he is doing it. He did it after the 1997 elections when he cut deals to merge KANU and his defunct National Democratic Party (NDP). He repeated the same scheme in 2007 to share power with former President Kibaki following the disputed elections.
Kalonzo is equally a master of these shrewd schemes with his “pita kati kati yao” mantra. As a matter of fact, Kalonzo’s call for an “all-inclusive government” was not quoted out of context because he is usually very coherent in his speech. He is missing government largesse that he is so used to since the start of his political career in 1985. In his close to 30 years political life, Kalonzo is one of the very few politicians to have been on the opposition benches for less than 5 years. He would not pass an opportunity to be in government. For a moment, let us consider CORD’s call for National dialogue as genuine before we focus on the issues they propose to form part of the agenda. National dialogues are negotiating mechanisms intended to expand participation in political transitions beyond the political and military elites. Their ambition is to move away from elite level deal making by allowing diverse interests to influence the transitional negotiations. Kenya is not undergoing any transition because a legitimate government and constitution are in place.
So the kind of National dialogue that President Kenyatta’s government welcomes is that of building enough trust and deliberating on the process through which the country might resolve some of its most contentious problems. The idea of negotiating among a narrow set of elites without expanding participation to a wider set of political actors cannot be entertained. In general, the envisaged national dialogue must be from a clear, manageable mandate, with a consensus on its powers, how it will relate to existing institutions and how to implement the concrete outputs.
CORD raised five issues which clearly constitute major concerns to all Kenyans. The president has not welcomed National dialogue because the government has failed to address them as CORD leadership may wish Kenyans to believe.
In regard to high cost of living, the government is taking all possible measures to ensure that Kenyans get basic necessities at affordable prices. Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich is set to re-introduce in Parliament the VAT Bill, which could reduce the price of basic commodities. Jubilee legislators have been supportive of the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill by CORD allied MP Hon. John Mbadi, which seeks to reduce the cost of living by exempting more basic goods from taxation.
The question of security mainly revolves around terrorism- a new threat inside and outside the country with immense effects to all sectors of the economy. Underfunding of the security sector remains the key challenge to enhancing the country’s security. CORD leaders were all senior government officials in the last regimes which fomented the current challenges president Kenyatta is seeking to address through increased budgetary allocations to security agencies to counter the threat of terrorism.
The government has also worked tirelessly to safeguard devolution by supporting development of sufficient structures at the County level and budgetary allocations to ensure service delivery. The presidency has kept an open-door policy and promoted dialogue with governors to address any challenges as they arise.
In the period the jubilee government has been in charge, issues around corruption are open addressed. For instance, the question surrounding the standard gauge railway has been addressed by parliamentary committees. On the flipside, jubilee has been forced to deal with the Anglo-leasing scandal whose major players like former AG Amos Wako, Kisii Senator Chris Obure a former finance minister who together approved the fictitious deals. Raila as supervisor and coordination of ministries failed to question the partial payment that legitimized the contracts leading to the loss of the petitions in London and Geneva courts that arbitrated the matter. Kalonzo and Wetangula were cabinet ministers.
Finally on IEBC, CORD should be ready to follow the right procedure in the same fashion the defunct ECK was handled. Raila Odinga and his CORD fraternity shall not use the National dialogue to re-brand and sustain momentum. He is better off trying his lack by applying the scarcity principal. Onyango Oloo is TNA Secretary General
BY ONYANGO OLOO,